TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa City Councilman John Dingfelder has turned in his resignation to step down from his elected position.
The resignation is part of a legal settlement with government consultant Steve Michelini.
Michelini’s attorney says his client made a public records request in August that Dingfelder did not comply with.
“All John had to do was take the request, do the searches, respond and produce and we would not be sitting here today,” said Attorney Ethan Loeb who also says that Michelini had learned that Dingfelder was using his wife’s email account for government business.
“I’ve done public records requests for the vast majority of my career and I’ve never seen an elected official use a spouse’s email account to communicate about public business,” said Loeb.
As the result of his settlement with Michelini, Dingfelder is prevented from speaking with the media about the litigation. After the use of his wife’s email account came up, the Tampa City Attorney began an investigation.
Public records reveal City Attorney Gina Grimes wrote to Dingfelder saying:
“We discovered numerous emails and text messages to and from you which create issues with respect to the City of Tampa Ethics Code and/or the State Ethics Code. Attached is a preliminary list of the text messages and emails discovered to date and the associated ethics code provision(s) that may be at issue (“Ethics Issues”). Further evaluation and review of the Ethics Issues is necessary. Most of the issues relate to City Code Section 2-521, prohibiting representation of private persons before any unit of government of which you are a member, and/or F.S. Sec. 112.313(7), prohibiting conflicting employment or contractual relationships.”
An attorney for the Florida First Amendment Foundation says using a nongovernment email account does not exempt a public official from public records laws.
“Officials have said, contact me on me on my personal email because that’s not a public record and it’s not true,” said Virginia Hamrick with the First Amendment Foundation.
The city has 30 days to replace Dingfelder on the council from the date of his resignation.